:: Planning for Resilient Coastal Forests (RCF) in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia

South Carolina coastal forest.

South Carolina coastal forest.

RCF Project Overview:

The Green Infrastructure Center (GIC), Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) and South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) are evaluating threats that may impact coastal forests. The Resilient Coastal Forests project is funded by the states and the US Forest Service. The project began in February 2019 and will last two years.

Coastal forests are being impacted by various threats - from development, to insects, to changes in weather, to fire risks. Climate change can cause both longer periods of drought, as well as more extreme weather events (high winds and greater amounts of rain).  Longer and hotter periods can cause tree stress and make forests more susceptible to pest damage.  Salt can damage coastal forests far from the shore as hurricanes carry saline water farinland. Furthermore, permanent changes in sea levels can deplete coastal forest buffers. The RCF project is looking at the condition of our coastal forests and the actions we can all take to ensure our forests are healthy long into the future.

Coastal forests at York River VA.

Coastal forest at York River, VA.

Resiliency refers to a system's ability to maintain its structure and function in the face of change. A resilient forest is one that, in the future, will still function, even though there may be changes to forest species and conditions.

Coastal forest in Camden County, GA

Coastal forest in Camden County, GA.

Why has the RCF Project Been Funded?

Coastal communities are increasingly impacted by storm surges, temperature extremes and development pressures, resulting in damage to critical coastal ecosystems. Rising water tables, increased exposure to flooding and escalating temperatures increase tree stress and promote a host of forest health issues. Development results in forest loss, exposed shore lines, decreasing critical habitat and increasing stress on remaining forests. Meanwhile, storm events continue to damage coastal forests, especially those in the urban interface, which are under additional stresses from the built environment. This project will help coastal communities map, evaluate, protect and plan for coastal forest resiliency in the face of a changing climate.

Eroding shoreline.

Eroding shorelines caused by storms on the York River, VA.

Hurricane forest recovery

Hurricane forest recovery monitoring on Pawley's Island, SC.

Participation

Each state has:
  • A State Advisory Group of representatives from each state’s forestry department, plus other state agencies.
  • A Regional Advisory Group of representatives of local government officials, local foresters and other natural resource agencies, conservation groups and related organizations. 
  • Community Engagement: Local meetings are held several times a year to include community knowledge and share findings.

Standing water.

Standing water has impacted these trees.

Outcomes

The primary outcomes are a Resiliency Plan anda method for both assessing coastal forests and developing actionable steps to increase coastal forest resiliency. Ultimately, each coastal forest community will have a more strategic and effective process to ensure their forested landscapes are resilient – both in urban and rural areas.

Urban forests

Urban forests are also key to liveability, as shown by these street trees in Georgetown, SC.

Each participating coastal forest community will receive:

  • A detailed land cover map that characterizes forest area extent and high-value significant habitats.
  • Calculation of benefits provided by the forested coastal landscape (e.g. storm buffering, pollution reduction and recreation.).
  • A threats analysis to the coastal forested landscape, including storm surge potential, development risks, potential pest outbreaks and existing pest impacts, invasive herbaceous species, temperature changes and resultant heat stress, potential coastline changes and loss of coastal forests, and fire potential.
  • A resiliency plan linking risks to opportunities for intervention (e.g. evaluating storm risks pre-storm, minimizing development in fire-prone and flood prone areas, and planning for forest change).
  • A web map depicting information to use for planning and management of coastal forests in each state.
  • A case study book detailing theprocess and outcomes, as well ashow to replicate the process for coastal communities.
  • Implementation training workshops (one per state), presentation, and a webinar.

 

Comments or questions? Contact GIC at 434-244-0322 or firehock@gicinc.org

 

Regional Inset Map

Regional Inset Map.

VA Project Site

The Virginia Project Site.

 

SC Project Site

The South Carolina Project Site.

 

GA Project Site

The Georgia Project Site.

 

Ibis

Ibis in a coastal forest, Camden GA.